Vaping leads to respiratory disease risks

E-cigarette use is linked to a higher association with respiratory diseases, one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

In fact, researchers determined e-cigarettes are an independent risk factor for respiratory diseases alongside traditional cigarettes. Using both, which most in the study tended to do, was the riskier than using either product alone, according to the findings.

“Current use of e-cigarettes appears to be an independent risk factor for respiratory disease in addition to all combustible tobacco smoking,” wrote authors Dharma N. Bhatta, PhD, MPH, and Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California San Francisco.

The study comes as the nation is grappling with an epidemic of respiratory illnesses related to vaping, dubbed e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI). The CDC has been investigating the cause of the illnesses, with the number of cases topping 2,000 and claiming the lives of at least 39 people in 24 states as of Nov. 8. The CDC narrowed in on vitamin E acetate as a potential chemical concern related to the illnesses.

The illnesses also led the Trump administration to consider a ban on all non-tobacco flavored vaping products, though any policy changes have yet to materialize.

The findings may also buck the thinking that e-cigarettes can help traditional smokers quit or wane off their nicotine addiction.

The researchers used data from the first three waves of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) public use data to determine an association. Wave 1 assessed lung or respiratory disease by asking adults: “Has a doctor or other health professional ever told you that you had any of the following lung or respiratory conditions? (yes or no): COPD, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.” 

Wave 2 and 3 asked: “In the past 12 months, has a doctor, nurse, or other health professional told you that you had any of the following lung or respiratory conditions? (yes or no): COPD, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma.”

Data from a total of 32,230 adults was analyzed, with 15.1% reporting respiratory disease at baseline. The researchers found that current and former users of e-cigarettes had a 1.3 higher risk factor of developing incident respiratory disease. For traditional smokers, the risk factor was 1.6, while the risk factor for those who use both was 3.3.

While the risk was slightly lower among e-cigarette users compared to traditional smokers, the risk factor for respiratory disease was still elevated. E-cigarette users may also use both products and severely impact their health risks.

“Although switching from combustible tobacco, including cigarettes, to e-cigarettes theoretically could reduce the risk of developing respiratory disease, current evidence indicates a high prevalence of dual use, which is associated with increased risk beyond combustible tobacco use,” Bhatta and Glantz wrote. “In addition, for most smokers, using an e-cigarette is associated with lower odds of successfully quitting smoking.”

“E-cigarettes should not be recommended,” they concluded.